Newsmaker of the Year No. 7: Rory McIlroy

By Jason SobelDecember 17, 2013, 1:30 pm

Rory McIlroy’s year was supposed to start with a bang. That was the plan, at least.

There was smoke, that’s for sure – and lots of it. A planetarium-quality laser lights show. Some sort of massive hologram of his likeness. A video montage of his prior accomplishments.

But a bang? No, there was no bang to start. In fact, no bang ever really took place.

Ranked No. 1 in the world and fresh off a season in which he was voted Player of the Year on both the PGA and European tours, McIlroy was introduced on Jan. 14 as the newest megastar in Nike’s estimable stable at the Fairmont Hotel in Abu Dhabi amidst a presentation usually left for Justin Bieber’s opening dance routine or the home team introductions before an NBA Finals game. Apparently that’s what happens when you sign a deal for a reported $250 million, even though he punctuated the festivities by maintaining with a straight face, “I don’t play golf for money.”

Maybe it was all too much for him. Maybe the down-to-earth kid from a working-class upbringing in Northern Ireland felt too much pressure trying to live up to such hyped expectations. Or maybe his struggles were more of the technical variety. Maybe his new equipment required a lengthier adjustment period than anyone had realized. Maybe his swing wasn’t as locked in as the previous year. Or maybe there were issues in his love life. Or changing his management team for a second time was getting to him. Or the impending decision to pick a country to represent in the upcoming Olympic Games held him back. Maybe it was none of the above.

The smart money contends it was some combination of each of these things that led to his comparatively poor performance. If McIlroy himself knows, he isn’t saying – although that would be contradictory to his personality, which leaves him open and honest, almost to a fault.

What we do know is that unlike most of’s 2013 newsmakers, McIlroy is on this list more for what he didn’t accomplish than what he did.

Rory McIlroy: Articles, photos and videos

That’s not to suggest his year was some sort of abject failure. In 25 worldwide starts, he compiled nine top-10s and a victory, though it took him until his 24th start to claim the latter. He missed the cut at The Open Championship, but finished T-25 at the Masters, T-41 at the U.S. Open and T-8 at the PGA Championship, hardly embarrassing results at the year’s most important tournaments. And he only dropped five spots in the Official World Golf Ranking, checking into the year at No. 1, but checking out at a still-impressive sixth.

Offer these numbers to most professional golfers, even some of the game’s elite talents, and they might literally take the money and run, confident in the knowledge that it might not have been a great year, but it was certainly good enough.

However, for a 24-year-old with two major titles won by eight-stroke margins already to his credit, it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even close. But that’s not the whole story, either. McIlroy’s disappointing year was less about the results and more about the precipitous journey. Just days after that literal display of smoke and mirrors, with an advertising campaign opposite fellow swooshster Tiger Woods gaining international attention, he missed the cut in his first start. The relationship with Nike got off to such a rocky start that he switched back to his old Scotty Cameron putter – on his second day of competition after the announcement.

A month later, competing at the Honda Classic near his adopted home of Jupiter, Fla., he was already 7 over playing the ninth hole of his second round when he walked straight off the course and into the adjacent parking lot. Before speeding away, he told reporters, “I’m not in a good place mentally, you know?” Less than an hour afterward, the official reason listed for his withdrawal was an aching wisdom tooth.

If that was the nadir of the drama which seemed to follow him throughout the year, then his on-course apex finally crested on the first day of December. Trailing by a stroke entering the Australian Open’s final hole, McIlroy watched playing partner Adam Scott post bogey, then jarred a 15-foot birdie putt of his own to clinch a come-from-behind victory.

In a year when he made bigger news for what he didn’t accomplish than what he did, McIlroy’s body language told the story of a journey that didn’t start with a bang. It told the story of a young man competing under a global microscope, flushed with lofty expectations. The ball rolled into the cup and the newest champion didn’t holler. He didn’t pump his fist. He didn’t even smile.

He exhaled.

More Newsmakers in 2013:

Newsmaker of the Year, No 8: Henrik Stenson

Newsmaker of the Year, No 9: Jordan Spieth

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Vijay Singh

Newsmaker of the Year: Honorable mentions

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.